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Chapter 9 - Srila Prabhupada

His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada appeared in this world in 1896 in Calcutta, India. He first met his spiritual master, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, in Calcutta in 1922. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, a prominent religious scholar and the founder of sixty-four Gaudiya Mathas (Vedic institutes), liked this educated young man and convinced him to dedicate his life to teaching Vedic knowledge. Srila Prabhupada became his student and, in 1933, his formally inititated disciple.

At their first meeting, in 1922, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati immediately asked him, "You are an intelligent young man. Why don't you preach the message of Lord Caitanya in English?" This request was to be the driving force in Srila Prabhupada's life.

In 1936, Srila Prabhupada wrote to his spiritual master, who was then passing his last days on the planet. In the letter Prabhupada asked, "Is there any particular service I can do?" Srila Bhaktisiddhanta said in his reply, "I am fully confident that you can explain in English our thoughts and arguments......I have every hope that you can turn yourself into a very good English preacher." Srila Prabhupada knew this was to be his life's mission, and he began to prepare himself.

In the years that followed, Srila Prabhupada wrote a commnetary on the Bhagavad-gita, assisted the Gaudiya Matha in its work, and, in 1944, started Back to Godhead, an English fortnightly magazine. Singlehandedly, Srila Prabhupada edited it, typed the manuscript, checked the proofs, and even distributed the individual copies. The magazine is now being continued by his disciples in the West.

In 1950, Srila Prabhupada retired from married life, adopting the vanaprastha (retired) order to devote more time to his studies and writing. He traveled to the holy city of Vrndavana, where he lived in humble circumstances in the historic temple of Radha-Damodara. There he engaged for several years in deep study and writing. He accepted the renounced order of life (sannyasa) in 1959. At Radha-Damodara, Srila Prabhupada began work on his life's masterpiece: a multivolume commentated translation of the eighteen-thousand-verse Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana). He also wrote Easy Journey to Other Planets.

After publishing three volumes of the Bhagavatam, Srila Prabhupada came to the United States, in September 1965, to fulfill the mission of his spiritual master. Subsequently, His Divine Grace wrote more than fifty volumes of authoritative commentated translations and summary studies of the philosophical and religious classics of India.

When he first arrived by freighter, the Jaladuta, in New York City, Srila Prabhupada was practically penniless. He later related, "I didn't know where to turn, left or right." After a difficult six months, he rented a small store front on 26 Second Avenue and was affectionately known to his first disciples as "Swamiji." Only after almost a year of great difficulty did he establish the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, in July of 1966. Before he passed away on November 14, 1977, he had guided the Society and seen it grow to a worldwide confederation of more than one hundred asramas, schools, temples, institutes, and farm communities.

Srila Prabhupada also inspired the construction of several large international cultural centers in India. The center at Sridhama Mayapur is the site for a planned spiritual city, an ambitious project for which construction will extend for many years to come. In Vrndavana are the magnificent Krsna-Balaram Temple and international guesthouse, gurukula school, and Srila Prabhupada Memorial and Museum. Many other centers are located in dozen important locations in India.

Srila Prabhupada's most significant contribution is his books. He wrote over 50 volumes of transcendental literature. From the original Sanskrit or Bengali texts, he would write word-for-word translations and comment on the texts in his famous Bhaktivedanta purports. He called these purports "my emotional ecstasies." Highly respected by scholars for their authority, depth, and clarity, they are used as textbooks in numerous college courses. His writings have been translated into over fifty languages. The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, established in 1972 to publish the works of His Divine Grace, has thus become the largest publisher of books in the field of Indian religion and philosophy.

In just twelve years, in spite of his advanced age, Srila Prabhupada circled the globe fourteen times that took him to six continents and initiated 5,000 disciples. In the early morning hours, between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m., he would spend writing, and later in the day he would preach to all classes of people in public and in private. Prabhupada slept only 3 hours a day and ate only a handful of food. Even up to the day of his death, when his physical body was at its end, he was writing purports to the Tenth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam. By any calculation, he was an extraordinary person and a saint. To those who have taken shelter of his lotus feet, Srila Prabhupada is our eternal spiritual master (janme janme prabhu sei), the Acarya (one who teaches by example), and Krsna's intimate associate who is bestowing mercy upon all conditioned souls.

Jaya Srila Prabhupada!

You can download and listen to his lectures, and conversations on our Prabhupada MP3 page.

Chapter 8 - Four Regulative Principles Chapter 10 - Sri Krsna  Table of Contents

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